From the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals: A Global Call to Collective Action

The Millennial Development Goals, or MDGs, established fifteen years ago sought to eradicate extreme poverty in all its forms.  Along with 189 countries, committed philanthropists, NGOs and other stakeholders came together to address basic social and economic inequalities across the globe.  As a result of their combined efforts the following achievements have gone a long way toward advancing human progress and addressing the needs of people across the globe:

  • Today, people living on less than $1.25 per day has been halved resulting in 700 million fewer people living in extreme poverty  
  • Primary school enrollment has increased by half and in developing countries enrollment has reached 91%  
  • Globally, people receiving treatment for HIV has increased 15 fold while newly acquired infections fell by 40%
  • 2.6 billion people now have access to safe and improved water supplies
  • Child mortality has been reduced by more than half around the world…… still, 11 children will die every minute from preventable diseases until our work is complete

The world is seeing whole communities, whole countries delivered from poverty.  Economic instruments such as microfinance have allowed men, and women especially, to pursue entrepreneurial business and agricultural ventures to sustain themselves, their families and their communities.  Technological advances, like mobile phone technology, are opening the digital virtual classroom for midwives to learn the latest technologies for safe and joyous deliveries while also expanding midwives’ ability to respond in time to the urgent needs of their expectant mothers –  saving lives in the process. Human progress has moved forward with great momentum because of the foundation for growth the Millennium Development Goals built.  We had a plan.  We had a map.  We had qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure our progress.  And, we succeeded in many areas.  Near and dear to our hearts is our work in the Philippines where we find it to be one country to take a look at in terms of progress, achievement, and the work that remains to be done when we begin to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

There has been mixed progress on the MDGs for the Philippines.  Deaths from malaria  and tuberculosis have declined significantly.  However, the Philippines remains 1 of 7 countries where HIV is significantly on the rise, particularly among young adults.  The use of modern methods of contraception has decreased slightly over time between 2006-2011.  This decrease in the use of contraception not only exacerbates the HIV prevalence and prevention of the disease, it leaves Filipinos vulnerable to contracting other communicable STDs.  Access to universal primary education has increased although retention and graduation rates remain, along with the quality of education, lower than desired.  Sexual and reproductive health and rights education as mandated by the Reproductive Health Bill (also known as the Responsible Parenthood Act) lacks uniformity in its application and in full participation by all public schools who are required by law to provide students with information about their bodies, their rights, and their choices.   

Much of the slow progress the Philippines is experiencing is due to the island archipelago nation’s frequent natural disasters. The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world  ranking third according to the World Risk Index, a report published by United Nations University.   Many in the scientific community attribute the country’s vulnerability for natural disasters as a direct result of climate change.  This unique challenge has  slowed and even reversed much of the MDG progress in the country and has hampered our efforts to achieve goals concerning maternal mortality.  

Maternal mortality continues to be very high at more than double the MDG target of reducing maternal mortality to a maximum of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.  Child mortality has declined by two-thirds, although neonatal deaths have only slightly been reduced because many women still do not have access to skilled birth attendance in a facility.  Inextricably linked to maternal mortality is the neonatal mortality trend.   Carrying one’s pregnancy to term and giving birth are the most vulnerable moments of a woman’s life.  While child mortality between the ages of 0 to 60 months has improved, maternal and neonatal mortality have stagnated at wholly unacceptable levels.  Great efforts at sustaining the young with nutrition, immunization, and disease prevention have secured the health of the young.  However, the fact remains that still too many Filipino women are giving birth without skilled birth attendance and are not accessing the birth facilities available to them.  

This assertion, however, does not account for the many more women living remotely, or without financial means, who do not have access to facilities.   Barriers to care are not limited to access and economic reasons alone.  Culturally, Filipino women and their families may have relied for generations on local women attendants at birth.  The Hilots, as they are known to the people, are experienced but lack education and skill.  They will accompany a home birth with minimal ability to address urgent care needs such as obstructed labor, haemorrhage, and eclampsia – all of which are treatable conditions and are even able to be identified during prenatal care by a skilled midwife or physician.  Further complicating a family’s desire to have the birth in a facility is the custom of some state and private facilities of holding women against their will in the facility until payment for the delivery can be arranged.    

Even with the slow progress the Philippines has seen many advancements in the areas of  malaria and TB reduction, access to, and availability of, primary education, basic sanitation and safe drinking water.  

  As we now mobilize ourselves and our organizations to pivot to and implement the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, we carry on the momentum of the MDGs and lessons learned in the adoption of the new goals that are gathered together as a call to action to end poverty in all its forms, once and for all.  Certainly, it is an ambitious endeavor that will require the commitment of the many nations of the world and their partners and stakeholders to focus their development efforts on the sustainability of our planet.

The SDGs are a comprehensive approach to sustainable living with 17 specific goals and 169 qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure the world’s progress. A most welcome development is the greater attention given to maternal health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) than was evidenced in the MDGs.  This renewed and reenergized focus on SRHR stems from the sheer wealth of evidence that shows access to modern methods of birth control is central to fighting poverty and is solely the most cost effective way to do it.  Poverty cannot be eradicated without properly addressing a woman’s right to choose, control and/or space her pregnancies.  

If the need for modern contraception was met across the globe:

  • Unintended pregnancies would decrease by 70%
  • Unsafe abortions would decrease by 74%.
  • Maternal deaths would decrease by 25%

Access to modern contraception has a positive effect on the lives of girls and women.  Early unintended pregnancies often lead to girls interrupting or discontinuing their education which only reinforces the cycle of poverty for their families and their communities. The truth is that women’s participation in the labor force not only increases with each additional year of secondary schooling but it also increases a woman’s potential income by 15-25%.  These facts alone should make it apparent that decreasing women’s’ barriers to accessing modern methods of birth control is good for the health of societies.

To this end, Alay Foundation is dedicated to improving reproductive health for women and their families in the Philippines.   Alay Foundation brings free SRHR educational outreach classes into the barangays of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija to reach people where they live in their communities.   Along with an adult class, we have a youth-centered SRHR class where Alay Foundation partners with local schools to deliver dynamic and interactive classes to the student participants.  Our outreach efforts are growing and expanding with each classroom full of participants  We are excited as we get our work underway in 2016 and are planning to reach as many in the community as we can.  Please join us in our efforts by visiting our “Support” page.  Your donation of $55 will support the entire cost of one class.  Won’t you stand with us in combatting poverty and providing critical health education?

An Encounter to Remember

An Encounter to Remember

It’s been three months since I was took on the role of Associate Producer for Alay Foundation’s filming project. At first I was hesitant accepting this volunteer position as I am still studying –  but in the back of my mind I knew the possibilities it might hold for me.  Although my goals once I have finished my studies are to go abroad, the position was an opportunity I could not pass up.  After 13 years of work in the public sector I know now that public service is a part of who I am and that Alay Foundation’s work in the community is yet one more way for me to serve.

I decided to accept this role because I learned that the project has a deeper purpose and is not just routine work to be performed. Meeting with the founder and president, Dr. Guy Sobrepeña, for the first time enlightened me about the mission and vision of Alay Foundation. Knowing that the foundation’s program focuses on women’s health, awakened in me a curiosity for what can I do to help achieve the goals of this filming project. I even asked myself, why was I chosen to be part of the said project? Maybe it has a purpose, a deeper purpose. As I was reading my job description of Associate Producer, I became committed to the responsibilities assigned to me and eventually forgot that this was a volunteer position.

I needed to make a lot of preparations for this job like: arranging my schedule in school; manage my time frame; prepare myself mentally, emotionally and physically as well as assessing my capability on doing my task and be able to give a quality output. Along the way, I realized that being chosen to do the job meant giving my superiors trust and confidence in me that I can deliver output that they are expecting to me.

The experience of going from barangay to barangay in San Jose City was not difficult for me to do as well as coordinating with the barangay officials – my previous work in the public sector saw me performing the same responsibilities. Establishing relationships with officials and the public was very familiar to me.

But after meeting interviewees for our filming project I can only say the encounter was indescribable!  The mothers with so many children to care for and teen-age moms melted my heart as if I was in their situation myself. I internalized what it would be like to be a mother just like them in such poverty.  What if I were in their situation?  How can I give proper health care, education and guidance to my 13 children when I, myself, did not finish my studies and do not have a job? How can I meet their needs and wants? How can I cook a delicious, nutritious, and complete meal for them, if I only have PHP100 for a day from their father’s income? How can I give enough love and attention to each one of them if I have to attend to the needs of my youngest children and still do all the household chores?   How can I be a good mother to them if I myself cannot take care of my body and health?

My encounter with Nanay Perlita and Nanay Lucy of Barangay Kita-Kita was heartbreaking.  Both had experienced the loss of some of their children because they could not provide for their health care needs. As a mother of four, I cannot imagine losing a child. The tears in their eyes while remembering the loss of their children crushed my heart as I tried my best to hold back my tears and to look strong in front of them. I need to do that because as an interviewer I have learned to not get too carried away from the interview. With Nanay Evelyn, I felt great empathy for her. She’s pregnant with her 7th child. Her face is pale; she looks like uneasy; she’s toothless and her blouse is dirty. Obviously, she’s not able to take care of herself.

I find the three mothers are very strong-willed women because they still manage to smile through the tears on their faces, accepting their situations; still choosing to move along with life, devoted to their children and families. They are resigned to what they have become but are hopeful for their children.  Even though they are not able to give them a better life they are seeking help and are hopeful that by being part of our filming project it might help them and their families in some small way.

I understand, now, why I became part of this project because my encounters with the women in these communities has changed my perspective and awareness of my health care needs and valuing myself as a woman.  Equally, I learned from my interview with Ms. Sylvia Ordoñez, (Executive Director of KDF) that health care is a gender issue and that as a woman and mother, it is imperative to have good health facilities where women are able to deliver their children safely.  And especially for those women living in a poor communities, the need for reproductive health literacy is a must and providing them correct information and awareness like family planning are tools that they can use.

After filming our project, I felt that this is a calling for me to help women and mothers by devoting myself to educating on, and bringing awareness of, sexual and reproductive health.   With Alay Foundation’s Maternal Program we have a real opportunity to empower women. I look forward to working with the women in our community and to more unforgettable and life-changing encounters with them. As an empowered woman I believe that, at the end of the day, our health is as important as providing love and care for our children and partners.   I believe that when we make health our priority we are only adding to the security of our families and communities, strengthening both as we do.

 

Field Notes: Pagibang Damara Festival of San Jose City, Part II

Photo:  Dianne Castelo, Communications Associate and Office Manager, Alay Foundation, located in San Jose City, the Philippines

Article written by Dianne Castelo

I joined Alay Foundation less than a month ago and while I am already enjoying my work immensely it is also challenging me to take on a more public role communicating the Foundation’s mission and programs to people of all walks of life.  I believe God had a hand in providing me this position and I am confident that I will grow and change in so many beneficial ways, both personally and professionally.

One of the first tasks I encountered on the job was putting together and organizing Alay’s participation in the Pagibang Damara Festival trade fair in San Jose City.  Unlike other booths at the fair we were not selling wares of any kind.  Rather, we were sharing with the public Alay Foundation’s programs and services for the community.  The Foundation is woman-centered and offers many benefits for those who will be planning their families, are interested in reproductive health issues and education, and, of course, for those who will be able to use Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center to be located in San Jose City, serving all 38 surrounding barangays. 

We spoke with many people at the fair and explained some family planning concepts with them such as the role of spacing pregnancies two to three years apart for the optimal health of mother and child, as well as the importance of prenatal care and nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy.

While there are many options for safe and effective modern family planning methods, a number of women still choose traditional methods such as periodic abstinence, the rhythm method, and withdrawal because they fear ill effects on their health from modern contraceptives.  However, with the exception of total abstinence, traditional methods are actually less effective than modern contraceptives and modern methods are completely safe.

We used our laptops to deliver presentations on family planning, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections to small groups of people that formed at our booth.  All in all, our presence and community outreach at the Festival was successful! 

As Alay Foundation’s Communications Associate, I am looking forward to planning and promoting our upcoming events such as our June 13th Blood Drive.  Be sure to come out that day and support us.  Tell your friends, family, and colleagues that donating blood is 100% safe and it SAVES LIVES.  Each of us can be a lifesaver – all it takes is one person and one donation at a time.

Midwives Save Lives

Midwifery has been with us, and central to our communities, since the beginning of time when women attended each other’s deliveries, ushering in new life. Through human development, midwifery has come to be institutionalized and professionalized.  This year’s International Day of the Midwife is themed “for a better tomorrow.”  Midwives not only save lives, they provide hope for that better tomorrow. 

The Philippines, a low to middle income nation, is one of 68 countries that contribute to 97% of all maternal, newborn, and early childhood deaths each year worldwide.  2015 is the ultimate target year of the Millennium Development Goals, a broad-based international effort to eliminate poverty and its effects.  Millennium Development Goal #5 seeks to address maternal mortality, reducing by three-quarters the number of women dying in pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period.  Sadly, the Philippines will not achieve the target of 52 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.  Instead, 11 women will die each day leaving more than 30 children motherless for each maternal death.

Midwives are crucial in providing a host of reproductive health care services – from family planning that allows women and their families to number and space their children to vital pre-natal care that can identify at-risk pregnancies in time to refer mothers to physicians and facilities that provide life-saving interventions.  Women are not dying from untreatable diseases and conditions during pregnancy and childbirth – they are dying from preventable causes:  hemorrhage, hypertension, sepsis, obstructed and prolonged labor, and complications from abortion.  Midwives are key to providing not only skilled birth attendance but the essential pre and post natal care an expectant mother needs during what is one of life’s most joyous experiences.

Save the Children and the World Health Organization estimate that another 350,000 midwives are needed to reduce maternal and newborn deaths.  Knowing how pivotal women are to human progress, how they stabilize their societies – from nurturing their loved ones to nurturing their economies and their nations in the process – their tragic and unspeakable loss is felt by families and communities  across the globe.

Facility-based births are on the rise in the Philippines as more women avail themselves of pre-natal care with midwives, nurses, and doctors.  Birthing centers that partner with midwives, such as the one Alay Foundation is building, are the community connection to securing the health of so many mothers and newborns.  Our birthing and women’s center is creating programming that effectively promotes and empowers midwives by making available the space, equipment, and technology to assist them in providing for expectant mothers and by facilitating continuing professional development for each of our partner midwives.  Celebrate midwives, today, and for that “better tomorrow.”  They bring forth the future through their dedication, skill, experience, and compassion.

 

Click on the link below to read “Giving Life, Giving Health:  The Role of Midwives”

http://wp.me/p4WSRY-1hD

Fighting for Maternal Health & Rights in the Philippines

Today, April 11th, is International Maternal Health and Rights Day – a day that recognizes and commemorates what we are fighting for each and every day.  It is an opportunity for people to advocate for the advancement of maternal health and rights in their communities, their governments, and through social media platforms across the globe.  Over the years we have seen much improvement in maternal health and rights for women and girls.  However, there is still so much to be done to reduce the number of women needlessly dying during pregnancy and childbirth due to a lack of access to family planning, unsafe abortion and preventable and manageable maternal health issues.  Sadly, the Philippines will not achieve the global goal of reducing maternal mortality and morbidity set forth in the United Nations’ MDG’s.  

Family planning and access to safe and quality reproductive health care are fundamental rights all women and girls should expect from their governments and their health care providers.  Family planning is also critical to addressing the maternal health crisis in the Philippines.  While new reproductive health laws have been passed in the Philippines, supply of modern family planning methods has been unreliable and unsteady.  Implementation of the law has had a number of obstacles – both economic and social.  Although, one of the greatest challenges remains the lack of awareness and education about family planning, particularly among teens and among the impoverished in urban and rural settings.  

Today, Alay rededicates itself to doing its part to address these issues.  We are building a modern birthing and women’s center in San Jose to serve the poor at no, or low, cost to women and their families.  We are creating educational outreach campaigns to bring awareness to communities about sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health issues.  We are also partnering with midwives and medical professionals with a program designed to enhance and further their education centered on reproductive, maternal and prenatal health that will allow them to better serve their community.  

 Alay Foundation will continue to advance and advocate maternal health and rights for the women and girls of the Philippines and we look forward to the opening of our first facility, Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center in San Jose.

 

Prenatal Care: The Vital Link for a Healthy Mother and Child

The primary goal of prenatal care remains an optimally healthy pregnancy outcome for mother and child.  In order to achieve this outcome, prenatal care encompasses a range of aspects from medical to social; from physiological to psychological; and from assessment to intervention.  Once pregnancy is confirmed, a woman’s health care provider monitors the development of the pregnancy and guides the mother to and through childbirth.  An expectant mother’s first appointment includes determining patient history, performing of the physical examination, and undergoing laboratory testing.  Subsequent appointments routinely evaluate and screen for maternal or fetal problems in order to intervene and prevent complications in pregnancy and childbirth.  Additionally, patient education becomes part of the process where mothers and families learn about, and are counseled on, nutrition, healthy lifestyle, birth plan, and family planning.

Two primary purposes and benefits of prenatal care are the reduction of preventable maternal and infant mortality and morbidity – goals the international community adopted in 2000 with the overarching theme of eliminating poverty and its attendant and concomitant developmental challenges.  These goals became part of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals that nations have been striving to achieve by 2015 in partnerships between and among governments, civil society, and the public and private sectors.

Improvements in maternal mortality rates have been made in the ensuing years since 2000.  However, some countries lag behind in their attempt to fulfill the goal of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters by 2015.  One such country is the Philippines where the maternal mortality rate is 221 deaths per 100,000 live births as of available statistics from 2011.  Prenatal care from a physician, nurse-midwife, or a midwife helps to avert these preventable deaths.  Yet, 10% of rural Filipino women still seek out the traditional birth attendant known as a hilot who has had no formal education or training in obstetrics.  Largely, these women are socio-economically disadvantaged with low educational attainment availing themselves of hilots who are members of the immediate community and offer a low-cost alternative to professional health care providers.  For many rural women hilots are their only option and they typically do not receive care in the initial stages of their pregnancies.  Rather, the expectant mothers will delay visiting with the hilot early on.  While it has been reported that traditional birth attendants provide much in the way of emotional support and are effective at allaying expectant mothers’ fears they are unable to screen for or determine high-risk pregnancies since they perform their services outside the modern medical community.

Through prenatal care during pregnancy health care providers are better able to identify a number of complications early on including preventable causes of maternal mortality such as risk of hemorrhage, hypertension, obstructed labor, infection, and unhealthy lifestyle.  Moreover, pregnancy, while natural and normal, can still be a time of vulnerability.  Health care professionals providing assurances and support for anxieties and apprehensions during pregnancy and childbirth is central to delivering quality and comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care.

At Alay Foundation, we believe it is the right of every woman to receive quality care for herself and her unborn children and financial hardship should not be a deterrent to seeking the best possible prenatal care.  Our birthing center and proposed prenatal program to partner our physicians with midwives is committed to a holistic approach for the health of mother and child while enrolling women and their families in PhilHealth continues to be our focus for establishing a relationship of reliability and trust for struggling Filipino families in need of health care services.  Health care professionals are there to guard and guide the process of pregnancy and childbirth.  Expecting a child is a profound time in the life of mothers and families – one that can be filled with much joy and anticipation and prenatal care forms the cornerstone of supporting the health of mother and child.  Every woman deserves the chance to seek, and have, the best possible care for herself and for her unborn children.

Giving Life, Giving Health: The Role of Midwives

As health care providers, midwives serve in a critical role on the frontlines of childbirth, yet millions of women will give birth without the support or assistance of a skilled birth attendant.  Each year 289,000 women die during pregnancy, childbirth, or in the post-natal period.  An additional 10 to 15 million women will become disabled due to chronic illness or injury from what are largely preventable and treatable complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth. Midwives are trained to ensure women receive quality care before, during, and after delivery and are equipped to identify high-risk pregnancies which, in turn, enables them to refer women to health care professionals and facilities for preventative or emergency care.

Midwives save lives.  Yet, globally, according to the World Health Organization, “more than one-third of all births take place without a midwife or other skilled health staff.”  Midwives, with their training and location in the community, often serve as a portal to the health care system that extends beyond pregnancy and childbirth.  They are often found offering counseling on issues of child care, nutrition, and family planning or administering immunizations and giving treatment for common illnesses.

However, there is a shortage or midwives universally.  The World Health Organization estimates that another 350,000 midwives are necessary to reach the MDG 5 target of reducing maternal mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

In the Philippines there are approximately 150,000 registered midwives of which 17,000 are government midwives performing health services in over 15,000 barangay (village) health stations.  The Philippine Department of Health reports that 56 percent of all births still occur at home while the remaining 44 percent are facility-based deliveries.  These figures represent a need for more skilled birth attendance which leads to better health outcomes for mother and child.  Midwives are part of the solution to bringing down the maternal mortality rate in the Philippines.  Statistics show that 221 Filipino women die in childbirth per 100,000 live births.  This amounts to 11 women dying each day.  It is unacceptable that women should die while giving life.

With the opening of Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center, Alay Foundation will work to integrate midwives into the center’s services.  Midwives will benefit from the use of our facilities for pre-natal care and deliveries and will take part in extensive continuing education and empowerment programs.  We feel every woman deserves to have access to skilled birth attendance with the explicit opportunity, and right, to live and thrive.  Promoting the work of midwives is integral to our center’s mission as we seek to address MDG 5 and reduce maternal mortality in the Philippines.  Visit our programs page to learn more about Mary’s Child Birthing Center and our other health programs.  http://www.alaysabayan.org/

MDG Countdown: Alay Foundation Responds

This is the first blog post in a series ‘Maternal Mortality Crisis in the Philippines’ that will concentrate specifically on MDG 5: Improving Maternal Mortality and how Alay Foundation plans to address the crisis in the Philippines and improve lives for women throughout the San Jose area of the Philippines.  

 

As the 500-day countdown for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) has just begun, the world has seen improvement and promise in achieving some of the MDG’s by 2015. In fact, there has been much progess on the eight MDG’s that were established in 2000 to improve the lives of the world’s poorest by 2015, such as access to safe drinking water and a reduction in global poverty rates.  Unfortunately, MDG 5, comprised of two parts focused on improving maternal health, the fist of which aims to “reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio,” is one of the furthest goals from being reached.  

Although the global maternal mortality ratio has decreased by 45 percent, this number is still unacceptably high: 289,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth in 2013, deaths that have left families in turmoil and children motherless. The vast majority of these deaths could have been easily avoided with the proper access to health care and family planning.  

The situation in the Philippines is dire.  The Philippines has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in all of Asia and will not meet the target number of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births.  As of 2011, the most current statistics for MDG 5 in the Philippines, 221 women die each year in childbirth for every 100,000 live births.    

Alay Foundation will address maternal mortality in the Philippines with the building of our first facility, Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center.  The designs for the medical facility are in the final production stages and will soon be submitted to the Philippine Department of Health for approval. The birthing center will be a modern medical facility with two private delivery rooms, one four-bed semi-private recovery room, and a consultation room where women can meet with a trained health professional and receive free pregnancy and STD screenings and basic family planning services.  

The birthing center will be built across the street from one of San Jose’s most respected hospitals, the Heart of Jesus Hospital.  Alay Foundation has a working relationship with the hospital and any obstetric emergencies that can not be handled on-site will be transferred to the Heart of Jesus Hospital, ensuring the best patient care available in the Philippines.  

Alay Foundation is committed to ending preventable maternal mortality in the Philippines.  We believe that no woman should die giving birth to the next generation.  Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center will be a vital community resource for women throughout the San Jose NE area of the Philippines.  

Please join us in helping the women and families in the Philippines by donating today.  

Educational Outreach in the Philippines

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~Nelson Mandela

One of the challenges we are seeing in the field has been the lack of education on basic medical procedures from community members and patients we have been transporting to their cataract surgeries. We are witnessing how patients are postponing their surgeries around planting seasons because they believe that there is a six month recovery period from cataract surgery. This is untrue, as the recovery time is about 1 day, although caution with heavy lifting for 1 month may also be recommended.

Educational outreach is pivotal in our mission, especially when our birthing and women’s center becomes operational. Alay Foundation will be using a comprehensive and long-term approach to caring for pregnant women. We will be encouraging our patients to get prenatal care at our facilities and giving them prenatal vitamins to take throughout their pregnancies. We will also be giving six weeks of post natal maternal care and one year of post natal pediatric care.

Many poor women in the Philippines do not get any pre-natal care or take pre-natal vitamins. We are finding that there are 2 main reasons for this: (1) they lack the financial resources and (2) they do not see prenatal care as a priority.

Alay Foundation will vigorously work to address these issues by doing educational outreach in San Jose City and the surrounding communities. Meanwhile, our work continues with enrolling patients in Philhealth, plans being finalized on birthing center construction and transporting patients.

In light of these challenges, we now have one of our team members in the Philippines conducting field research on other basic health care misconceptions. Our goal is to find out what types of educational outreach are needed most in the San Jose area that we can provide.

Mary’s Child Birthing & Women’s Center

Front of proposed birthing center.

Maternal health is central to Alay Foundation’s mission and the high maternal mortality rate in the Philippines is a critical issue we aim to alleviate with the opening of our first facility. According to the United Nations Population Fund, In the Philippines, as of 2012, 221 women die for every 100,000 live births and over 4,000 women die each year for preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth. This disturbing reality is why we are choosing to build a modernized birthing center as our first facility.

Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center will be located in San Jose City, across the street from the Heart of Jesus Hospital. Alay Foundation has a working relationship with the Heart of the Jesus Hosptial, a private local institution, who have agreed to take any obstetrical emergencies such as c-sections, emergency hysterectomy, or prolonged labor. The proximity to such a respected medical facility strengthens our ability to address any and all complications during delivery that are beyond the scope of the birthing center’s services. Our patients well-being is our utmost concern. The birthing center will be just that – a center for the community improving the conditions under which women give birth.

The land for the birthing center has been acquired and there was a small groundbreaking ceremony in May 2014 where Alay’s founder dedicated the construction project to the community. Architectural plans are still in the final editing phase and are being prepared to submit to the Department of Health for approval. The facility will encompass an examination room, 2 separate birthing rooms, and semi-private recovery room holding up to 4 women and their newborns. For the waiting area we are equipping the room with televisions playing recordings of Alay Foundation’s educational podcasts. The plans are designed to accommodate future expansions to the facility.

We are very excited to get started and we will keep you posted on further details of the Mary’s Child Birthing and Women’s Center.